Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. – EXODUS 20:12, NKJV
Honor your father.
A commandment I struggled with for decades. I used to stare at the verse, begging God to tell me how I could honor my father. How could I honor a man who mocked my mom and me for going to church? How could I show him honor when he simply wasn’t honorable? I’m not going to lie- this caused a real impasse between God and me. I loved the Lord so much, but I began to ignore Scripture. I chose to “overlook” certain passages that seemed impossible. I drew further away from the Word because I was not able to look upon my father with honor. And as I drew away, the Holy Spirit kept reminding me that I was falling short. That He expected more from me. He expected obedience.
Of course I tried to restore the relationship. I found, however, it would not be possible for me. As a mother, it was a risk I could not take. He was still an unrepentant, dangerous man. It was then I knew that I could never have respect- never have honor for my father and be in his presence. I was devastated. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to continue to break one of the commandments every single day for the rest of my life. I was broken, and God saw that.
As a believer living on this side of the cross and under the New Covenant, I know that my sins are forgiven and that I have the promise of eternity in God’s presence. But for me, walking closely with God includes keeping His commandments. I began to pray differently, asking God to show me the things – anything- in my father’s life that were honorable.
I cried out like never before.
God answered me by showing me that the Scriptures were not going to change just because of my circumstances. God’s Word does not depend upon my life and the choices that my selfish, arrogant, cruel father made; in fact, the challenge of obedience lies right there, in the middle of my mixed up life, and possibly in yours as well. In order to obey God and heed His instruction, I needed to “work out my own salvation” (Philippians 2:12).
If I didn’t, I was placing myself before God by saying His perfect Word didn’t apply to me.
So I began to employ Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
I focused on the best about my father, and laid down the worst.
My father grew up in the coal-laden mountains of West Virginia. He joined the Navy just a few days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and he married my mother before being shipped out of New York to fight. He used his talent and skill as a mechanic to work with the still-new mechanism of launching torpedoes. The ships he served on were in the thick of many battles. He and his fellow sailors survived Japanese Kamikaze attacks, air bombings, and mine and torpedo warfare. He rose to the rank of CWO (Chief Warrant Officer) and was recognized with a merit medal for inventing a way to fire two torpedoes at a time during an attack. My father served his country proudly, bravely, and with honor. With honor. There it was, at last. I could – and would- honor my father for his selfless service to our country. He may have made some horrendous choices after he was honorably discharged, but for a moment in time, my dad was a good man who risked his life for our freedom. And I found freedom in finally having something nice to say:
He was a veteran who served his country well and with honor.
From this side of the computer, I have no idea where you are in your journey. I don’t know if you have come to terms with having a dad, or mom, that is lacking in the honor department. I don’t know if you even understand what I am talking about because your dad put all the TV dads to shame and is a perennial candidate for Father of the Year. But if you’re like me, and you have struggled with this holiday for most of your life, I encourage you to look deep for that one thing that will allow you to celebrate Father’s Day without knots in your stomach. Because once you learn how to freely honor your father, you will find it strengthens your ability to love, obey, and honor your heavenly Father as well, and it will enable you to view your husband’s role as father with joy and admiration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dolly Mink has a heart for women who are hurting. Years of experience in Christian leadership have given her a unique perspective and she is eager to share her observations insights, and words of encouragement all in a way that honors her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dolly serves on the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team at River Oak Church in Chesapeake, and on the SBCV Women’s Ministry Leadership Team.
To read more, visit her blog, Grateful for the Grace.